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The Teacher Tip

Discovering A Topic

December 7, 2017

Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision by Sneed B. Collard III & Vicki Spandel.


A common problem with many early drafts is that they contain more than one competing subject or main idea. That’s not surprising. Writers often do not find their real topics until they begin writing. It does not mean they have done something wrong. On the contrary, they have done something very right, which is to explore ideas until the question that interests them most on bubbles to the surface. That’s the time to sharpen focus, turning all drafting and research attention on that most intriguing question.


In order to determine competing subjects in early drafts, have students write down all the subjects they can find in their piece. Then, have them go through and count the lines they have devoted to each subject. This way, the main subject will either be clearly shown or the student will realize they have too many competing ideas and will then pick one to focus on. 


To learn more about Teaching Nonfiction Revision and to download a sample chapter, visit

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